A letter-writer this week likened himself to an annoying little namu, buzzing away in the background – but no longer, the writer claimed, because now, the people finally have a choice, there’s a new kid in town.
I’m not sure if the writer has done his research on our political history, but there has been a table full of “new kids in town” and choices, like a well-laden kaikai since 1965.
I did a count and I don’t know that I captured them all but here goes: all the political parties that have come and gone since 1965, except for the Cook Islands Party and the Democratic Party who have stood the test of time.
We start with the United Cook Islanders Party in the late 1960s, the Cook Islands Labour Party and United Political Party (Cook Islands).
Then in the 90s we had the Alliance Party, the Democratic Tumu Party, and the New Alliance Party.
In the 2000s we were graced with the Cook Islands First Party, the Cook Islands National Party, Party Tumu, Te Kura O Te Au Peoples Movement and the Tumu Enua Party and in late 2014, the One Cook Islands Movement.
Though not complete, one thing is clear.
There have been many parties come and go since 1965 and yet only two have maintained their hold on politics and leadership in the Cook Islands and they are the Cook Islands Party (1965) and the Democratic Party (1971).
What stands out for both of these parties and maybe a contributing factor for their longevity, love them or loathe them, is their leadership.
The Cook Islands Party was led by Albert Henry, then Sir Geoff Henry, and continuing the Henry legacy, our current Prime Minister Henry Puna.
And at the Democratic Party, Sir Tom Davis, Sir Pupuke Robati (father to Tina Pupuke Browne), Sir Terepaii Maoate, Robert Wigmore, Wilkie Rasmussen, William (Smiley) Heather and now Tina Browne are the seven leaders since the party’s inception in 1971.
After 1965, political power in the Cook Islands has often been managed by a small group of families like Brown, Henry, Puna, Tuavera, Heather and Maoate.
Our youngest MP Te-Hani Brown is continuing a family tradition started by her great-grandfather Dick Brown, who served as a member and leader of the Legislative Assembly between 1958 and 1965, and ran against Albert Henry in 1965 but was unsuccessful – unlike his grandson, our current Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown.
Some families at the forefront of our political entrance have maintained their legacy through familial ethics of hard work and responsibility.
However, when we look at politics globally, and see that sense of hard work and responsibility traded instead for a sense of entitlement and ownership, then the political space has been spoilt.
The ability for that country to prosper has sadly been traded for the opportunity for the few to profit – and that’s why profit alone should never be a measure for a country’s success.
I want to suggest that prosperity for a country and its people is achieved when core values, such as engagement, accountability, transparency and access lie at the base of a country’s leadership.
Yes, a country can profit without these values – it will just never be prosperous because that profit will be enjoyed by the few and not the many.
Prosperity thrives in a place where people are put before policy, and people are put before profit and personal gain.
What does it say about us, when we remain silent about these sorts of indiscretions? Or do we just believe it can’t change, it’s too big, too hard and it’s just the way it is?
Because I do believe we can have the change we desire, as do many others, and I do believe that there is hope.
That we can prosper as a people and profit as a country and in that order, because the political will for others to be prosperous is one that is sustained, measured and accountable despite the temptation to do otherwise.
Where real profit is generated, and shared, because it is something we have all invested in, and all have a share of their hard work and not just the few.
So I ask again, when Albert Henry’s call went out that no one in the tribe should be left behind, did that mean everyone?
Did he imagine the policeman, the petrol pump attendant, the shopkeeper, the cashier, the street sweepers, the teachers, the elderly, the disabled, those in Arorangi prison or in an emotional prison, or those gathering coconuts to sell and feed their family – did he imagine none of them being left behind?
Yes, he did!